In 1903 fourteen years old Anna met seventeen years old Nikolay. She wrote poetry since she was 11 and he published in 1902 his first book of poetry.
In 1905 Nikolay first time asked Anna to marry him. However, they married 5 years later, in April of 1910. Before marriage Anna wrote to her friend: “…I believe that it is my fate to be his wife. Whether or not I love him, I do not know, but it seems to me that I do.”
The couple honeymooned in Paris. In September of 1912 their son Lev was born.
Anna Akhmatova, Nikolay Gumilyov and Lev Gumilyov
Before marriage Nikolay extensively traveled in Europe and Africa. From Wikipedia: “Gumilyov was fascinated with Africa and travelled there almost each year. He explored, helping development of Ethiopia, … and brought to the Saint Petersburg museum of anthropology and ethnography a large collection of African artifacts.”
At that time Nikolay published two more books of poetry. While in Paris he published a literary journal and there one Anna’s poem was published.
Soon after marriage Nikolay started to rebel against its restrictions. At the end of 1910 he left Anna for a six-month trip to Africa. Anna wrote to a friend that Nikolay “lost his passion” for her.
During Nikolay’s absence Anna became one of founders of the Guild of Poets. Her magnetism and allure attracted many great men. It is known that Anna had affairs with some of them.
Nikolay also was a founder of the Guild of Poets. To illustrate their ideals, he published two collections of poems,The Pearls in 1910 and the Alien Sky in 1912.
In 1912, the Guild of Poets published Anna’s book Evening..
Anna was recognized as “a new and striking young writer”.
“The Rosary …appeared in March 1914 and firmly established her as one of the most popular and sought after poets of the day.” (from Wikipedia).
At that time she “became close friends with Boris Pasternak (who, though married, proposed to her many times).”
In July 1914, Akhmatova wrote “Frightening times are approaching. Soon fresh graves will cover the land”.
On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia.
Nikolay volunteered to serve in an élite cavalry unit. For his bravery during the war he was awarded two St. George crosses.
His book of war poems The Quiver was published in 1916.
In 1917, when Russian Revolution started, Nikolay was in the Russian Expedition Corps in Paris. He returned to Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). There he published several new books of poems.
In August of 1918 Anna and Nikolay divorced.
Soon after divorce Anna married prominent assyriologist and poet Vladimir Shilejko.
She later said “I felt so filthy. I thought it would be like a cleansing, like going to a convent, knowing you are going to lose your freedom.”
There was no cleansing. She began affairs with theatre director Mikhail Zimmerman and composer Arthur Lourie.
Nikolay In 1919 married Anna Nikolaevna Engelhardt, a daughter of a well-known historian.
Three years after Anna and Nikolay’ divorce Nikolay was shot with 61 others for conspiracy against the state.
“Terror fingers all things in the dark,
Leads moonlight to the axe.
There’s an ominous knock behind the
A ghost, a thief or a rat…“
The case against Nikolay Gumilyov and all others was completely fabricated and all victims were rehabilitated by Russian authorities in 1992 (71 years after their deaths).
Painting by JF